Discovering the Relevance of Words
I’m never sure how personal I should get with these posts.
Every once in a while, I have to remind myself that this site is not, in fact, my diary. You wouldn’t think I’d have a problem differentiating between the two, since one is a website and the other is a small book with pictures of horses on it that lives under my mattress. Yet I still sometimes get halfway through a post before I realize it has more to do with my own mental problems than it does about writing.
It all comes back to theme. The theme that runs through everything on this site is language and its impact on culture, and I have to keep reminding myself of that as I sit down to write. Similarly, I now have to remind myself that the theme of this post is the overshare.
What Would Gwyneth Paltrow Do?
Oversharing, as I’m using it here, is the tendency to provide entirely too much information. It’s often used in the context of awkward or inappropriate information, but it can be mundane, just so long as it is off topic.
I’m going to pick on Gwyneth Paltrow here, mostly because she’s been in the news a lot lately but also because it’s so easy. Maybe I just read too much Yahoo! News, but it seems like she can’t open her mouth without proving how out of touch she is. She tries to relate to people by blogging about her totally unrelatable life. Putting a wood burning pizza oven in her backyard was the best thing she ever did, you guys. We should all do that. Indispensible items for spring? Handbags that cost more than your car.
Let me step it back a little. I’m sure she’s a lovely woman. But this impulse to share with all us commoners how fantastic her life is does not serve her.
Yet still, it’s an impulse I understand. As writers, we all share it, and it isn’t always a bad thing. Most of the best literature the world has ever seen has been intensely personal. If we didn’t think the images and words we created in our heads needed sharing, we wouldn’t be doing any of this. But we are human, and we’re not always right.
We seem to be less and less concerned with our privacy as we enter this online epoch of human history. Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have made the average person’s life just as publishable as Ms. Paltrow’s, to similar effect. Few things bum me out more than meeting someone who seems really cool only to respond to their friend request and realize I hate them as I scroll through their comments and likes. It could be argued that finding out like this saves time, but at what cost? Call me old-fashioned, but I like to be surprised when I discover that the girl I’m with is a total racist over dinner. It gives me a chance to work on my ‘getting the hell out of there’ skills.
It may seem strange to think about it like this, but in many ways we are making it easier for people to judge us in an age when judging people is supposed to be on the decline. Honesty is a virtue, but what about unrequested honesty? Language is an extremely powerful thing, and perhaps it’s a mistake to be so unthinkingly free with it.
That being said, I’d like to share with you every depraved and shameful thought I’ve had since I woke up this morning. It won’t take long. According to my notebook there are only 75-400 items to discuss.
At the end of it, I’m sure you’ll realize I’m a totally relatable genius.
Can I call you Diary?